(Feb 27, 2009) Sourcing, as currently practiced, is a short term phenomenon. There is money to be made in the field today because the techniques required to find people are arcane and confusing. Additionally, with the strong exception of Avature and Broadlook's products, there are no useful tools for the automation of the process.

Meanwhile people are getting easier and easier to find.

The next waves of innovation in social networks will be all about making the membership accessible to each other. Right now, finding additional network nodes, new friends or interesting potential connections is a black art. You've got to be a Boolean Black Belt. You need a guru. There's an entire consulting industry built on specialized knowledge.

You may rest assured that this situation will not last.

The web is best when it tears down the friction that separates information from the people who need it. The folks who work hard mining data manually today will be flipping burgers in the near future. The skills required to move forward are unlike the ones being taught. Contemporary sourcing is a dead-end occupation with little in the way of transferrable skills.

Next generation recruiting is about relating intimately, not about mutual discovery. It's about fidelity and long term value exchange, not one night stands. It's about data that updates itself because the relationship is constantly working. Finding each other? Easy. Building an enduring relationship? Hard.

For a while, sourcing will be a high dollar, easy pickings income source. But, in the relatively short term, the need for the expertise will evaporate. Former sourcing luminaries will be familiarizing themselves with the alarm on the French fry machine and the relative difference between Rare, Medium and Well done.

Evaporate, as in "What air freshener scent would you like with your car wash?"

So, what do you do if you're a sourcer (or any kind of Recruiter, for that matter)?

  • Get really good at being a productive member of an online community. Join stuff, volunteer, get experience.
  • Develop repeatable methods for discovering new communities and joining them.
  • Develop community management skills (Jason Davis is a good role model).
  • Stop acting like an email address is a relationship or a list is a community.


I'm on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Friendfeed. Catch up with me.


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John, does your distressing news apply as well to telephone sourcers?
John, great post, but I think we're already there. It takes me or anyone one on my team mere moments to find anyone anywhere. As you pointed out that's not the hard part, building the relationship is what takes the work, and what pays off.

Have a great day.

I immediately thought of you and your sourcers group as I begain to read this. I must say some of John's comments are provocative. Excellent topic for discussion - no?

You know, Maureen, a little more time in the fryer makes them crispy. You just have to get them out before they get really brown. :-)

Finding people is about to get extremely easy.

Telephone sourcing has the long term viability of say, a newspaper. That said, I am certain that you have a clearer picture of the long term viability of the telephone approach. 40 Million LinkedIn profiles leaves another 100 million workers to find today.

But they are all online already and social networks will be as ubiquitous as email three years from now.

Nothings going to replace talking to people as a way of building relationships. Telephone sourcers with a modicum of personality ought to be able to transition into the next wave. Online researchers have a bigger challenge.

(If you didn't see this, the venerable San Francisco Chronicle is in real danger of a shut down).
Yup. (Gulp).
Don't worry I've posted it over on MagicMethod and SourcersGuild and in the ASKMaureen group on ERE...
We'll see what the pundits say. Actually, I'm looking forward to this conversation. I have long since suspected (part of) what John's saying is true.

John, you say:
But they are all online already

I say:
No, they're not. Only a fraction (maybe 10%) of allavailable workers (yes, the kind we want, generally) are online in a capacity in which they can be easily identified. I believe it's even less than 10% and is the real reason behind what will drive telephone sourcing in the coming years.
mmmm. That sort of off taste suggests that there's a little bit of bathwater in that cup. Your customers won't like their soda when its watered down. <3

I'm going to stretch a bit here. Feel free to knock holes.

25% (ish) of American workers have college degrees (about 35 Million people). That's exactly the number of people that wikipedia says have linkedin profiles. (I keep hearing 40 Million). I'm certain that the overlap is perfect.

Exactly how many people without college educations do telephone sourcers try to find?

Those folks can be found and addressed. That's why some ridiculous number of HR people use LinkedIn. I think I saw 93% the other day.

There are over a million social networks on Ning. All that is missing is a good search engine and Pipl is on the right track.

If you develop a relationship with the shift manager, you can pretty much get hired whenever you actually want the job. ;-)
John, are you saying all the members on LI are Americans with college degrees?
Maureen Sharib said:
John, are you saying all the members on LI are Americans with college degrees?
I was a recruiter and very successful. Then came the profit oriented shift to Sourcing or cybersleuthing = to me just plain hacking. I would not go that route. I am not considered hireable
With the current downturn some people may have the opportunity to put integrity back into recruiting.
Its not all about tricks and tricking people

Well aside from the slightly insulting undertones, I think John is right about some things.

"Sourcing, as currently practiced, is a short term phenomenon"

Couldn't this have been said every 5 years for that last 20? 40? 100? Haven't Sourcing Practices evolved already? Don't they always? How many Sourcers these days are rifling through 5x7 index cards? Posting jobs in newspapers?

But yes, as recruiters continue to specialize, becoming masters of their markets, the need to generate candidates from the web or phone sourcing should decrease as one is able to rely on their personal networks and relationships within the field. The role of Sourcing might shift to sourcing alternative information such as market data, industry trends, and start-ups in the space. Knowledge will continue to be sought and mining information for this knowledge is here to stay.

To suggest that the skills being refined today in the Sourcing community will only lead to better served burgers in the future is a little over the top though.
Eric, let's take this subject up in Tuesday's MagicMethod chat - what you think?
That is, if Ning's new chat is in a form that we can navigate!

Judy, I'm interested in hearing more of your thoughts.

John, I'm waitin' on that data!
It appears to me that you are speaking of apples and oranges. I concur with Maureen's assessment that many are not available via internet and phone sourcing will always be necessary in some instances. Not everyone is a CEO with a PR rap sheet a mile long. However Jim, you start out talking about sourcing and end talking about relationships and recruiting. Two different concepts and no one would disagree that building a long-term relationship with a candidate would be unimportant. However, sourcing is not recruiting although a recruiter can be a sourcer. There are a lot of HR departments where the typical monthly workload for new hires can certainly go over 20, 30 or more. It takes time to source and depending on the complexity, sourcing can consume a large number of hours. I would rather have a list of targeted names put together inexpensively so that I can concentrate on reaching those people quickly while doing all the other aspects of recruiting like building a relationship, setting up interviews, preparing the candidates for interviews, preparing the client for the interview and candidate, debriefing both candidate and client, negotiating offers, handling last minute glitches, and so on. If you only have to recruit a handful, take all the time in the world. If not, use a qualified sourcer to save time, money and frustration. Just my 2 cents.

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